St. Andrew’s Evangelical Lutheran Latvian Congregation in Toronto has been ministering to the needs of the Toronto Latvian community since March 13, 1949, and has undergone many changes over time.
Founded by World War II refugees from their Soviet occupied homeland, Latvia, to serve Latvian Lutherans who had made their new home in Toronto, the congregation has now become a more diverse community that includes ethnically mixed marriages and families where the Latvian language is not spoken at home. The services and activities of our congregation of about 600 members now embraces both the Latvian language as well as English.
From 1951 the St. Andrew’s church at 383 Jarvis St., Toronto, was the jointly-owned home for both the Latvian and Estonian Lutheran congregations until October 1, 2015 when the church property was sold.
In 2012 the St. Andrew’s Ev. Lutheran Latvian and Estonian congregations were approached by Grace Church, Toronto, regarding the possibility of using our church to hold their Sunday worship. Those initial discussions developed into a possible consideration to sell the property to Grace Church after both congregations concluded that the physical facilities within the St. Andrew’s church were too large and expensive to maintain given the size, and the programmatic needs of our congregations. The effort to maintain the church was impacting our ability to meet our mission and vision.
In February 2015, Grace Church committed to the purchase of St. Andrew’s church at 383 Jarvis Street, with a closing date of October 1, 2015. This permitted the historic church (built 1878) to benefit from the stewardship of a vibrant and growing congregation.
For over sixty years, St. Andrew’s church was our home, the place where our children were baptized and confirmed, and where our congregation members were married. It was a very important place where we shared our joys and sorrows. For many years it served as the home for our ethnically based activities, Latvian school, scouts and guides, dance programs, and relief organizations serving Latvia. The memories of all those events and activities are heart felt and deeply cherished. For many of our parishioners departure and adjustment to the transition was emotionally difficult.
In exploring alternatives, our congregation concluded that the best choice was to forge a partnership with St. John’s Ev. Lutheran Latvian Church and to use their facilities for our worship and services in Toronto. Following a number of meetings with the leadership of St. John’s congregation, a cooperation agreement was signed, beginning a new partnership with them. As of January 2015, we began holding worship and Sunday services at the St. John’s church and in October moved our administrative office and other activities to our new location at 200 Balmoral Ave. where we continue to be “two congregations under one roof”.
In 1953 the congregation bought their country property – Sidrabene at 5100 Appleby Line, Burlington, which serves as a recreation and retreat centre with a large main hall, tuck shop, swimming pool, splash pool, children’s playground and operates a children’s summer camp. It provides indoor or outdoor rental space and opportunities for camping. There is an outdoor chapel where services are held every Sunday morning and Wednesday evening in the summer during camp, and on the first Sunday of every month from October to June.
The first pastors of the congregation were Rev. Ādolfs Gaudiņš and Rev. Alfreds Skrodelis, followed by Rev. Ādolfs Čops (1950 – 1974), Rev. Juris Cālītis (1974 – 1996) as well as Rev. Māris Ludviks (1988 – 1991). From 1997 until her retirement in 2020 the pastor at St. Andrew’s was Rev. Ilze Kuplēns-Ewart.
Since January 2021 the pastor at St. Andrew’s is Rev. Dag Demandt.
Congregational leadership is provided by the Church Council chaired by Līga Miklašēvics.
St. Andrew’s Evangelical Lutheran Latvian Church belongs to the Eastern Synod, Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada (ELCIC), the Latvian Evangelical Lutheran Church Worldwide (LELCW) and the Latvian Evangelical Church of America (LELCA).